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Surprising Science

The Anti-Social Network: Re-Discovering The Art Of Sharing With Ourselves

What’s the Big Idea?

The idea of keeping a private journal is enjoying a renaissance.

Earlier this month, a new app called launched with the goal of collecting your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts in an actual diary. The free iPhone app lets you pick and choose posts from these social networks to be automatically added to the diary, in addition to random posts that you can enter manually. All of these entries can be organized by date and even tagged as different categories. And unlike the social networks these posts are drawn from, everything posted to is private by default.

Just this week, another website called Loccit launched with a similar idea. Loccit connects to several social networks in order to turn your updates into a more private online journal, which the company says, “takes the place of that lost shoebox.” In an interesting twist, Loccit also offers the option to print out the journal so you can hold this digital diary in your hands.

What’s the Significance?

At first blush, these services might sound redundant or even downright useless.  After all, Facebook and Twitter do already function as a kind of diary. However, there’s one big difference: Social networks encourage users to share personal updates with others, while these newer services place an emphasis on maintaining a journal primarily for your eyes only.

Loccit and may be the clearest recent examples of this shift back to keeping a diary, but they aren’t the only tools helping users chronicle their lives away from the gaze of Facebook friends. Penzu, a free online journaling service, lets users keep a private online diary that is stored in the cloud. Then there’s Little Printer, a new printer from the Berg design consultancy, which encourages users to print out updates from sites like Foursquare and Instgram. Like Loccit, Little Printer provides a way to turn some of those status updates into keepsakes.

These tools do more than just imitate the feel of keeping a personal diary or scrapbook. They also help us curate the vast amount of personal data that we each share online. Anyone who is fairly active on social networks now faces the digital equivalent of a messy attic with papers and books scattered everywhere. Not every Facebook photo or Twitter post may be worth remembering, but many of them are.

What we need going forward are more tools like these to help us start to organize the chaos and keep track of our digital lives.

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